Vol. 1, Issue 29, December 2, 2003
Poetic Cereal Box Collection Bequeathed to College
Bowdoin College, a selective four-year institution in Brunswick, Maine, has received an unusual bequest from one of its alumni.
"From time to time someone will donate a collection of manuscripts or other media," said librarian Sherrie Bergman. "But this is rather unprecedented, I must say."
Gerald Finster, who graduated Bowdoin in 1964, willed his entire collection of cereal boxes to his alma mater when he passed away last month. His collection consists entirely of boxes from the General Mills cereal "Haik-O's," a short-lived cereal produced from 1973-1975.
"Haik-O's represented an attempt on the part of the cereal industry to introduce some cultural and/or educational content to their line of cereals, which had acquired a poor reputation among educators due to their longtime use of vapid cartoon mascots," said New York University professor of literature Gail Thurmond. "It was an experiment that was never repeated."
Haik-O's were an undistinguished sweetened variation of General Mills mainstay Cheerios. What made the cereal different was the packaging. All text on the box, including nutritional information, was presented in the form of haikus.
"The mascot, Stewie Haikuwi, was this obnoxious little green guy," said renowned cereal box collector Chuck Battista, who has six of the boxes in his collection. "I don't recall anyone having as many boxes as this guy. They have very little value."
"Cereal is cheap
Finster bequeathed 87 different Haik-O's boxes to the Bowdoin College Library. The boxes contain an average of 38 different haikus apiece, adding up to over 3,300 haikus. None of them, according to experts, are any good; General Mills apparently did not see the need to hire a real poet for a children's cereal. This miscalculation probably led to the cereal's rampant unpopularity and ultimate demise, said Battista.
It is unclear why Finster, a mechanical engineer by trade, amassed this collection, as he apparently demonstrated no other interest in either poetry or cereal box collecting. However, the Bowdoin College Library, which boasts just under a million volumes, is glad for the addition, however quirky.
"We'll be adding this to our Special Collections," said Bergman. "I can't wait to see what scholars will do once they have the opportunity to work with this unique resource."